I feel like this a confessional rather than a review… Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I have read a Jeffrey Archer novel.
The fact that I found myself in this position took me by surprise as it wasn’t something I ever anticipated doing. The cover had caught my eye in a book shop, as had the quote from The Times, describing it as ‘that classic of modern literature.’ So I thought, why not, let’s give it a go.
The first section of the book charting the early lives of the two main characters was actually quite engaging, which was a concern – not only was I reading a Jeffrey Archer novel, but I was also enjoying it! That feeling wasn’t to last.
Increasingly, it felt clichéd and clumsy, with the various plot twists easy to spot in advance, and I lost count the number of times a character vaguely recognised someone they met but couldn’t quite remember where from. It seemed like collective amnesia had struck the whole cast of characters, but maybe it was just because they want to remember being in the novel!
I’m sure Kane and Abel has often been described as ‘a page turner’, but I’m not sure if that’s because the reader was gripped by the action or just desperate to finish and get the experience over and done with. And as for The Times’ quote, I got the sense that it was an abridged version of a sentence that probably read ‘This is not that classic of modern literature you’ve been looking for’.
Apparently, 33 million copies have been sold worldwide, which is a phenomenal figure, and I know some will say 33 million people can’t be wrong… but 17.4 million people voted for Brexit, so that blows that particular argument out of the water.
The book reads like a mini-series, which it obviously became, and I started thinking about casting as I was reading. It’s the sort of thing I could have imagined Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy starring in as Kane and Abel respectively at the start of the careers, but then both hoping it would be forgotten about and lost in the TV archives when they became successful. And it probably would until they both appeared on the Graham Norton Show, when he would show a clip of said mini-series. They’d both laugh, though inside they’d be cursing Graham for revealing their deep, dark acting secret to the world.
I did finish the book, which goes against my usual practice of giving up if I’m not enjoying it. I’m not sure what my penance should be for this, but I’ll go for half a dozen Hail Marys and a promise never to read another Jeffrey Archer novel.